Monday, August 25, 2014

New found gems in New found land...

Glaucidium palmatum 'Album' at the botanic g=Garden in Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's,

I'm in a Starbucks not far from Atlanta Botanical Garden on the 25 of August: I doubt if it's 80F outside right now with a gentle, almost autumnal breeze: you can hardly blame me for revisiting May and the cool breezes of Newfoundland. I know I've milked that trip endlessly on behalf of Nova Scotia (where a sizeable chunk of my heart has been left behind), and I did touch very briefly upon the glories of Newfoundland alpines (you're supposed to click on that bolded phrase to access the URL for my blog, get it?)...but it would be wrong if I left that trip float into the past without sharing a few pix from the wonderful botanic garden in St. John's. Beginning with that mind-boggling clump of the rare Japanese Glaucidium.

I show this charming window box filled with tulips and narcissi to stress how late the season was: I was there the end of May: they'd never had such a tardy spring: but what fun it was to revisit all the bulbs we'd seen pass weeks earlier! Spring is often a tardy affair in Newfoundland, but so then is Autumn--which can stretch almost to Christmas.
Primula 'Betty Greer'
Everything at this garden seems to proliferate: the primroses all formed masses in the cool climate in which they most revel to grow....

There are many neatly laid out bveds--and of course, most of the summer annuals and veggies and even perennials were not in evidence: they'd just had a hard frost a few weeks before, but you could see that they were about to rush into activity!

"What" you may ask "is this strange picture about?" Well...look carefully and you will see a sizeable crater caused by a MOOSE! They have many critters who wander through at will: I can assure you standing next to a curator when he's just noticed moose tracks through a bed of treasures is almost as alarming as it is entertaining in a cruel, sadistic sort of way (forgive me Todd..). I learned several salty and quaint Newfy curses that afternoon.

I love the old logo and the name that used to be bandied about: I never heard anyone hereabouts using it--I suspect that its been "rebranded" away: More's the pity. I may be a pinko politically, but when it comes to names and horticultural traditions I'm a die hard Tory.

 Boy, would I love to see these veggie beds today in August: they were beautiful in their spring promise! Everythings so tidy there!

It's obvious that the Optimist club has a large and enthusiastic contingent in Newfoundland: just LOOk at all those tomatoes! I can only imagine the caniptions they leap through to get them to ripen...I have no idea how to spell caniption (the spell check doesn't like my spelling): I will be curious if anyone actually reads this blog and can come to the aid of my spelling.

I should expunge this picture from the Blog: I only took it to remind myself to swap germplasm on this Alchemilla, which we grow as saxatilis but which is sold as alpina. I love this thing and have been struggling to get it into Plant Select for years without luck. I'm curious if there's and our's are identical (if so, it has to be a winner to do so well in two such different climates). Now you've caught a glimpse of the tortuous workings of my feverish mind...

More crisp, promising beds: when an unplanted garden looks good you know you have talent in the works...

I was stunned by the health, rubustness, vigor and just plain beauty of the border in spring: the clumps of perennials--just look at them--are incredibly thick and uniform and healthy. I can tell you that right now they will be a riot of color: but a garden even in the "off season" that has such crisp beauty is the real test.

Closer looks at the vigorous perennials, all cleaned up and ready for summer...

Our "queen of the meadows" doesn't look like this: it forms wispy little tufts: this is an army by comparison!

The rock garden, constructed by Bernard Jackson (q.v. my encomium) just before all heck breaks out. The attractive mats, mounds and rocks combined just so are a tributre to his fantastic eye for design, but also to the continuing talents of his successors like Todd Boland. This garden has been a perfect storm of excellence!

One of the many heath, heather and rhody beds. The less said by me the better: I am extremely fond of Ericaceae, and they love the Maritimes of Canada. And I'm very jealous...

Look how lusty and lustrous the conifers and mats and cushions of the rock garden are: this is year around gardening at its best!

I can't believe they can grow 'Cole's Prostrate' hemock in the full sun. I can't believe that Bolax glebaria--the wonderful Astroturf plants of the southern hemisphere, loves it so well here. And what lovely rock mulch. It has my seal of approval, believe me!

Just get a gander at the lichens on the rock. The less said the better--this is an amazing garden.

They'd just had two really tough winters--and look how happy and robust and healthy the rhodies are. It's a good thing I like Liz Klose their Director and Todd, my old rock garden buddy....

Speaking of Todd, here he is: in addition to being a stalwart researcher here, helping with curation, design and who knows what else, he has authored a sizeable "oeuvre" of books about the plants of the Maritimes that is eating up more and more of a bookshelf at my house. He's really a star of North American horticulture who's not gotten a tithe of the acknowledgement he deserves. He is also an enthusiastic and widely traveled birder who's been all over the world in pursuit of the critters who eat my plants. He is a superb lecturer, and a mensch. If you've not had him speak, your local garden is all the poorer for it.

Yet more borders, bursting with fresh buds and growth: this really is one of my favorite times in the garden--although the blowsy summer would no doubt impress more.

Look at the bark on this tree which I photographed to remind me of something: since I've said all those flattering things about Todd, I'm hoping he'll fill us in (check back on this blog in a week or so and the name may magically appear in the caption!) [Just as I thought my trusty friend's checked in: this is Laburnum X vossii.]

More lush borders and one of the relatively small staff who keeps this enormous garden in tip-top shape. I think We "United Statesers" could learn a lot from our fellow "Americans" up north. (National nomenclature is a subject of discussion outside our borders).

The alpine house had lots of permanent denizens: the nature and the way they manage this feature is absolutely fascinating: you don't pay me enough to delve into the details--but like much else at this botanic garden it is ingenious, effective and economical.

Not a lot in bloom yet--but what's here is healthy and lovely.

A beautiful form of Bergenia ciliata--one of my all time favorite plants. I shall not elaborate because I might go on for pages...

More views of the alpine house--you can count the number of alpine houses in the United States on a single hand. And that with digits missing. European botanical gardens bristle with them: another way in which we lag further behind (real patriots look to see how to improve their country rather than just crow about it in ignorance).

Salix calcicola--a rare plant in Colorado...and a wonderful plant in their garden!

This garden is full of sexy willows: and I was fortunate to be there at their peak of bloom. Woo hooo!

Closeup of a wonderful crevice garden created bvy Todd.

What a beautiful pasqueflower: forgot to write the name. Todd! Come to the rescue! [Todd did: it's P. pratensis 'Nigricans']

                                    Pulsatilla pratensis 'Nigricans' from another angle.

Another view of their endemic willow. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. We can't import it without enormous grief. Such are the joys of the new order created by bureacrats and busybodies--(not that I have an opinion on the matter!).

Here Todd is demonstrating that crevice gardens are excellent for yoga practice: every Yoga studio should have one for their students to have in order to perform the "rock hip tilt"--the excellent strengthener of pelvic joints.

In addition to providing leadership, their CEO provides these imaginative antique crystal flowers she fashions from trophies she finds at Thrift stores. I find this charming. Liz Kloze (her name) is a gracious hostess and seems to be a wise leader who empowers her staff as well as inspiring them.

I was thrilled to find Epigaea repens growing naturally on their site--and especially pleased that they've gone to great lengths to keep it happy. I was disappointed that the flowers had just gone over and I missed the spicy sweet fragrance--one of the sweetest I've ever smelled.

More heaths and heathers...there can never be enough in my opinion! Especially in these wonderful maritime places.

A parting shot of the alpine house and rock garden. You don't have to be a rock gardener to notice that the finest gardens: Edinburgh, New York Botanical Garden, Frankfurt, Munich, Kew, the University of British Columbia's botanic garden, Gothenburg, Wurzburg all have magnificent rock gardens and alpine houses. And many other botanic gardens that I've not mentioned or visited. As for the rest of you duffers, get off your butts and put some in!


  1. I'm blushing PK! Great overview of our Garden. FYI, the green-barked tree is Laburnum X vossii. The pulsatilla in the crevice garden is P. pratensis 'Nigricans'. The first willow you showed (in two images) was Salix calcicola but the one immediately before my "yoga" exercise is indeed our endemic S. jejuna.

    It was a delight to show you our part of the world, despite the latest spring on record.

    I have the privilege to show Mike Kintgen the other end of our season in October. Hope it is as sunny as when you visited!

  2. Good work Todd.

    The spelling of the word you seek is conniption. The definition follows.
    Conniption - What I had when I was banned from the NARGS Forum. :)

    I like the swath of Primroses. I grew a bunch of Primula specuicola in a pot. Some sort of rot has attacked them. I wonder if they would have done better if they were not so close to one another. Maybe the rot would not have spread. It makes me wonder if growing primroses in big patches might lead to disease problems later.

    I like the crevice gardens. This reminds me of all the thermodynamics jargon I threw at you to describe the simple fact that rock conducts heat deep into the soil to keep plants cool in summer and rock conducts heat up from the ground to help keep plants warmer in winter. Of course, rock must be buried deeply to access the big heat sink we call earth. It seems Todd has put this principal to good use in his gardens.

    I must admit, I'm amazed that he can grow bulbs in a window box. In my location they would need the protection of an insulated garage to survive the winter.


  3. Very refreshing and inspiring on a warm late summer week while I'm tending chrysanthemums


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